Hula Girl Shaking Her Grass Skirt on the Dashboard
Less than two weeks had passed since returning home to Miami after a five week odyssey in the UK and Ireland. Just enough time for me to start feeling that itch to go somewhere fast. Out of the blue a friend in need asks if I could help get him across the country I didn’t even have to consider it. Of course my answer was YES! Soon after I set off from Miami to head west with a guy in a wheelchair, a German Shepherd, and a talking African Parrot.
Crossing the United States on wheels is a rite of passage for those driven by a steady, internal wanderlust that works its magnetic force by pulling us from East to West and back again. Endless highways make it so easy these days that it’s doable without even a map.
Historic New Orleans French Quarter Architecture
My plan was to drive straight through past Texas and then we’d slow down stopping at Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico, the Painted Desert in Arizona, Holbrook, Canyon de Chelly National Monument, the Grand Canyon, Zion National Park and last stop, our final destination, Las Vegas.
Sometimes nothing goes according to plan. It was Thanksgiving Day I woke up in a “vintage” motel room in Carlsbad after driving for several days only to realize that this is one of the few National Parks that is shut for the holiday since they have a staff that works elevators into the Caverns.
We’d been in the car now for three long days. On the very first night just as we had gotten north enough from Miami to be in what is actually considered The South, I felt that unmistakable tickle in my throat. With temperatures dropping into the 30s I didn’t stand a chance.
Big Bend Texas National Park
TEXAS TOOK CLOSE TO TWO DAYS.
Being sick, the solo driver, plus assisting my friend with the pets had taken a toll. At this point I proposed we make the last 16 hour trek to Vegas in one last final shot.
Weathered Fence in New Mexico
That’s what we did. Past snow covered desert and run down towns in New Mexico and on to Arizona. We stopped for a proper holiday meal in a casino. I can’t remember what I ate, but it wasn’t turkey. In the dark of night I saw the sign for the Grand Canyon. Everything else was lost in total darkness.
Daytime View of the Las Vegas Strip
By the time I took care of getting everything situated all I had energy to do was to hole up in a nice hotel and veg out for a few days. Since I wasn’t getting any better I thought why not go see family instead of camping out in weather I wasn’t prepared for. There were unusual lows in temperature and snow that I wasn’t expecting.
Empty Open Highway Under Clear Desert Sky
In Nevada the sun shines so bright from the cloudless blue sky that it looks surreal. Hard to believe it was chilly outside.
Solar Power Energy Panels
Power, the renewable, sustainable kind makes me happy. These I found near the Lake Mead National Recreational Area. I’m not sure what time of electric is produced, but to me it looks like progress.
Death Valley hadn’t been part of the itinerary, but neither was illness and freezing weather. This national park has been on my list for years. For one day I finally got a small taste and I want more.
Scenic Road in Death Valley National Park
Scenic routes are endless once you get out west. Roads seemingly disappear, dead ending at the horizon. Clouds and dust set the stage.
Badwater Basin Death Valley National Park
Highs and lows come quick along the road. Badwater Basin is the lowest point of elevation in the USA at 282 feet below sea level.
Wild Coyote in the Afternoon Glow of the California Sunset
From a distance the land looks to be devoid of life. Barren of any existence. This couldn’t be further than reality. Stop and listen and the desert sounds reveal life hidden from the passing eye. This is something that should be done regularly at all times no matter where you live!
Early Morning at the Hoover Dam
My last night in Nevada I slept in the car with the heat on. The cold snap meant it was snowing nearby. Before dawn I headed to the Hoover Dam. As the sun rose the sky filled with color.
Sunrise at Lake Mead National Recreation Area
Water is a precious resource. Lack of water in Lake Mead is visible in the line of contrast left on the now exposed lower end of the mountains edging the basin.
Freemont Street Old Las Vegas
One last night in Vegas brought me to Freemont Street where it all began. Neon lights fill the sky. Once upon a time THIS was the legendary hot spot. Now I imagine, it’s much quieter. In a Gambler’s Paradise one can always find refuge among the palm trees.
Las Vegas Neon Martini Glass